We don’t think we’ve ever objected to a gift of wine. It’s not a garish tie or Christmas sweater that we’re embarrassed to wear. It’s not a game we’ll never play or a basket of preserves that will be regifted at the first opportunity. Wine fits most everyone.
However, not all gifts for the family oenophile have to be wine. So, we’ve assembled a few alternative ideas for you to consider as you head to the store (or computer) to shop.
- Wine tasting kit. We really like the Master the World tasting kit that guides you through the evaluation process with unidentified samples of various wines. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, the tasting kit challenges your senses in what can be a monthly subscription to six 187ml bottles of red and white wines selected by Master Sommeliers. You can play along with an online self-evaluation too. We tried it with friends and it was a lot of fun. The cost is $90 for each kit – less if you subscribe. See mtwwines.com.
- Books. If your gift is going to someone who loves wine but yearns to learn more, “Wine Folly” by Madeline Puckette, is easy to digest. We also recommend “Windows on the World” by Keven Zraly which is now in its 35th For those friends more knowledgeable about wine and less interested in education, we recommend “Cork Dork” by Bianca Bosker and “Adventures on the Wine Trail” by Kermit Lynch. Both of these are fun reads.
- Wine Club. We’re not into wine clubs in general because the choice of wines is often unimpressive and obscure. But we like the looks of Wine Access because the team that selects the wines are impressively credentialled and selective. The winemaking team sources grapes from well-known producers with the understanding that their names not be disclosed. They could be buying juice, grapes or the finished product and slapping a unique name on the label. Cameron Hughes’ de Negoce operates similarly but labels its wine with a number. You could buy a case from these clubs as a gift and include an email alert for additional offers. Another option to consider is Scout & Cellar, which deals exclusively with natural wines.
Wine Squirrel Sealing Decanter ($70). If you use a decanter for older wines, there is always the dilemma of storing unfinished wine. We sometimes pour it back in the bottle, but some of it inevitably spills. The Wine Squirrel has a special sealing mechanism that allows you to store the wine in the same decanter and preserve it for weeks.
- Beer selection. If there is a beer fan in your family and friends, Tavour is worth a look. It puts together a holiday bundle of small-craft beers from more than 600 independent breweries. You can buy a bundle to be sent weekly during the holidays by using its app.
Admiral Rodney Princessa Rum ($50). This St. Lucia rum is inspired by the HMS Princessa, a Spanish vessel captured by the British in the 1780. It contains Coffey still rum and is aged 5-9 years in bourbon and port casks before being blended. Honey raisin aromas and caramel, crème brulee flavors.
- Champagne Billecart-Salmon Champagne Trio ($265). This holiday gift box consists of three cuvees that will deliver triple the pleasure. Boxed in an attractive package made from recycled cardboard, the bottles include Brut Rose, Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru and brut Sous-Bois.
- Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port Portugal ($20). Known as a drier style of port, this version from Cockburn’s, purchased by the Symington family in 2010, represents a good value and is a great introduction to port for those seeking a reasonably priced experience. Aged for 5 years this reserve port features cherry and plum notes in a very mouth-filling experience.
‘Tis the season for sparkling wine. If you want to start your celebration with bubbles, here are some suggestions from around the world:
Adami Bosco di Gica Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut ($20). Although it’s not hard to find prosecco under $15, a few more dollars give you a sparkling wine with more complexity. Made from glera grapes, this DOCG wine has a bit of sugar to round off the palate. Adami also has an interesting single-vineyard prosecco – Vigneto Giardino – for $23.
- Nyetimber Blanc de Blanc ($65). You don’t think of England when it comes to sparkling wine, but it has been producing some excellent, luxurious cuvees in recent years. We loved this complex and elegant version.
- Roederer Estate Multi-vintage Brut Rosé ($35). Generous apple and stone-fruit flavors with a dash of blood orange highlight this Anderson Valley sparkling wine. Blend of pinot noir and chardonnay.
- Frank Family Vineyards Brut Rosé 2015 ($55). You can count on this producer to deliver luxury in a bottle. Using pinot noir (90 percent) and chardonnay grapes from Carneros, Frank has crafted a hedonistic sparkling wine with a beautiful pink coral color and bright strawberry and red cherry flavors. The wine rested on spent yeast cells for four years before disgorgement in January.
Codorniu Classico Brut ($15). Simple yet refreshing, this Spanish cava has fresh acidity and unique flavors from the blend of macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada grapes.
- Diora La Belle Fete Rosé of Pinot Noir ($26). This spirited rosé is one of several made by this Monterey County producer. Grenache and chenin blanc are added to the pinot noir to give it fresh, layered red fruit flavors.
- Enrico Serafino Alta Langa Oudeis Brut 2016 ($28). From the Roero region of the Piedmont, Serafino is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has operated on this site for more than 140 years. Toast to its illustrious history with a glass of this blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. Aged more than 3 years in the bottle on its lees.
- Priest Ranch Brut Rosé 2016 ($50). This is a fun sparkling wine made entire from syrah grapes. Aged 24 months in stainless steel on the lees and another 24 months in the bottle, it has bright cherry and strawberry notes with a smooth finish.